We have all heard the saying, that when white America gets a cold, Black America gets pneumonia. This saying cannot be any truer than the time we find ourselves in today.
Very little data has been published as to the effects of the coronavirus by race. As of April 5th, the Illinois Dept of Public Health shows African Americans significantly overrepresented in infection rates. The Black community represents 14.6% of the state’s population, but 29% of the confirmed coronavirus cases. The white citizenry, on the other hand represents 76.9% of the population and 28% confirmed cases. The Latinx community is 17.4% of the population and 9% of confirmed cases. The Asian American community is 5.9% of the population and 3% of the confirmed cases. The race of about 24% of individuals who tested positive was left blank. Black individuals also account for 41% of Illinois’ 274 coronavirus related deaths, while white individuals represent 39% of people who died after testing positive for the virus.
Illinois is only one of two states that are providing race information in their data. In a letter to Alex Azar, the Health and Human Services Secretary, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Ayanna Presley admonished the Trump administration for their lack of racial data. They understand that any real containment of this virus requires addressing its potential spread to low income communities of color. The Coronavirus is plaguing cities with large Black and brown populations i.e. Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans and New York. Dr. Tony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert, stated that it is possible 100,000 to 240,000 deaths related to COVID19 could occur before it’s over.
In an interview on CNN, Dr. Teena Chopra, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Wayne State University said that underlying health inequities are leading to more serious cases in Michigan’s Black communities. Conditions of obesity, diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and heart disease are underlying conditions that make this virus so dangerous. She also stated by the time Covid19 patients are seen in hospitals they are already seriously ill.
According to Dr. Danielle Lee, assistant professor of biology at SIU, although the data is not compiled yet, anecdotally, we are seeing a bias in who is getting tested. The existing bias in healthcare delivery that already exist for Black people, people of color, people with accents, poor people, and people with disabilities is already problematic; emergence like this can only exacerbate the disparities, she believes.
South Korea has emerged as the model to emulate in flattening the curve for this virus. It has had one of the most expansive and organized testing programs in the world. Combined with testing, South Korea has gone to great efforts to isolated infected people and track and quarantine their contacts. They have tested more than 270,000 people, which amounts to 5200 tests per million inhabitants. According to the US Center for Disease Control, the US so far has 74 tests per million inhabitants.
As an at-risk community it is imperative that African Americans are adhering to sheltering in place, practicing social separation, and avoiding touching our faces, and washing our hands often. We have to assume because of the lack of testing, that anyone and everyone, could possibly be infected or a carrier of the virus.
Not only is the Black community going to be disproportionately impacted medically, but the economic devastation to our community is also of great concern. Civil Rights leaders came together to address Congress before the passing of the Coronavirus Relief Bill.
CEO and President of the National Urban League, Marc Morial stated in his remarks to Congress, “Urban communities of color are likely to suffer the brunt of the health and economic impacts of the Coronavirus crisis and any legislative response must contain targeted relief.”
NAACP CEO and President Derrick Johnson told Congress, “Low income workers, who are disproportionately African American are the least likely to have paid sick leave and are more likely to face short-term layoffs or total loss of employment.”
The CARES Act was passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by the President on March 27, 2020. Every adult that makes $75,000 or under will receive a one-time $1200 payment based on income taxes filed in 2018 or 2019. Married couple with income of $150,000 or under will receive $2400, and single head of households with income of $112,500 will also receive $1200, and for each child under 17, an additional $500. Individuals that receive social security benefits will automatically receive a $1200 stimulus check. However, for those individuals who are not required to file an income tax or do not receive social security benefits, IRS is still trying to work out how checks will be allocated to them.
Another important component of the CARES ACT is the expanded unemployment benefits. This is critical for anyone who has suffered a layoff or has been furloughed because of COVID19. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation covers individuals who traditionally are not covered under state employment laws. Church employees, small not for profit employees, part time workers, self-employed, freelancers and contractors all qualify.
An individual must apply through their state’s unemployment agency. Once you have been approved in addition to the state compensation, you will receive an additional $600 per week through July 31, 2020. The ACT allows for an additional 13-weeks of benefits be added once individuals exhaust their regular unemployment benefits.
Critical to the survival of Black small businesses is taking advantage of the $377 billion in loans and grants for small businesses that The Cares Act has allocated.
The first component is called the Paycheck Protection Plan which enables organization with employees from 500 and under to obtain up to $10 million in loans that are 100% forgivable, if they do not layoff any employees or if they rehire employees they’ve already laid off. The loan can be used to maintain payroll, keep workers on the books, pay rent, pay mortgage interest, and existing debt. Churches and nonprofit can apply for this loan.
The second is the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program which includes a $10,000 grant that businesses can apply for and which they do not have to pay back. These emergency funds are for small businesses to cover immediate operating cost.
The third component is relief for existing small business loans. Six months of principal, interest and fees will be covered. It’s important that a small business contact their lending institution immediately to get the application for these loans or grants. They are only available for a limited amount of time, and they all have a dollar cap on them.
Finally, and more importantly, remember we have come this far by faith. Feed your spirit with the word of God, turn off the news and listen to some music, read a good book, stay in touch with your friends and family, and know if God brought us to this, He will see us through it.